About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Contextualizing tools

I have been participating in the Work Literacy Learning Project. This week they are looking at RSS and aggregators. This has been a challenge to me as I had a totally different idea as to what RSS aggregators were. In fact, I had been using one for a while (iGoogle) but did not know it.

Michele Martin gave a very good explanation of RSS and aggregators, much better than I had read in the past. Most just give you as literal definition of RSS (Real Simple Syndication) and don't really explain how it is used or examples of how and RSS is used by readers or bloggers/podcasters.

Michele explained it this way
First, we're talking about two different things here--subscribing to feeds from
other sources and creating feeds for your own blog. Let's start with subscribing
to and reading feeds.When you click on the RSS ("squiggly") icon on a blog's
page, that's going to give you the feed for that particular blog. You're right
that there's often more than one option, like "Atom" or "RSS 1.0." These are
just different feed formats and most readers can support all of them, so it
doesn't really matter which you choose. To be able to read the feed you find on
a blog, you would paste it into your feed reader--Google Reader, Netvibes,
Bloglines, etc. In Netvibes, you can create individual tabs to organize your
feeds, so in my case, I have Learning, Technology, etc. as individual tabs and
then the associated blogs I read are contained in those tabs.Now Feedburner is
what you use to set up a feed for your own blog and to do things like provide
people with an option to get an email subscription, etc. It's also how you can
tell how many people have subscribed to your feed. For the most part, you want
to encourage people to sign up for your feed, as it's more likely that they will
read it if they are getting the content pushed to them every day.As for
tags/labels--Google reader lets you use tags to organize and share--the concept
is similar to Delicious tagging where you can use any words you want as tags. I
don't use Google Reader, so wonder how others might use the tagging feature.
Also not sure if Bloglines has that or not.
As part of the course on new learning tools, I have participated in the French Speaking Forum, which has also given me new insight into the use of aggregators. Stephane Wattier made the distinction between the aggregators and "annuaires", which is just a directory of links. I am not sure that we make the same distinction on the anglo web or if there is a difference in the French and Anglo system.

Learning in Context

This experience has reinforced my belief that some people (like myself) just learn better when they are in the context than in a more traditional training room or classroom. Interestingly enough, I was never able to do well in languages within the classroom, but speaking and communicating in a foreign language came easy when I was in the context.

I find for example, that my French (which had gotten a bit rusty) has improved. I thought perhaps that the terms used for technology would make it difficult for me to participate in this forum. However, learning the terms in context not only gives me an understanding of the language, it also has given me an understanding of the tools themselves and how they are used in the culture.

We can extend this to using tools in the context of this course. A very well designed course, the work literacy learning project is set up in such a way that we learn within context, but also are encouraged to use the tools in our own contexts, to understand the bounderies and possibilities of the tools. I think this allows us to expand the possibilities as to how the tools can be used and the outcomes. Just like playing around with the language (which many think is set and static) can give us a new understanding of a situation or concept depending on the the context, playing around with a tool in different contexts can give us new affordances for that technology,
dependent upon the context.

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